During a stint last Thursday guest-hosting The Dan Patrick Show, I filled up some of the three-hour tour by talking about five players who intrigue me heading into the 2011 league year.
For these purposes, I’ve taken that five and added five, finishing up with a more familiar list of 10.
And here they are.
1. Tiki Barber.
Tiki’s tale of football redemption could become one of the most intriguing story lines of the season.
If anyone offers him a contract.
A couple of teams supposedly are interested, and Tiki’s agent has declared that they know where Tiki will play. But the two teams in which he has expressed the most interest — the Buccaneers and the Steelers — may not be interested in him.
His obvious goal is to restore relevance, and then possibly to relaunch a media career that begins with slightly lower expectations. The first question is whether he’ll get that chance.
2. Kevin Kolb.
Based on the manner in which the Eagles have gotten the absolute most out of every quarterback that has taken the field under coach Andy Reid, why is there a presumption that Kevin Kolb constitutes a can’t-miss proposition?
No offense to Kolb, but his (limited) achievements could be chalked up to the coaching in Philly, given that the coaching in in Philly has done wonders since 1999 with a laundry list of signal-callers.
Sure, even if Kolb is 75 percent in Arizona of what he was in Philly, Kolb will still be better than anything the Cardinals had last year. But given the manner in which the Eagles have grifted the likes of the Dolphins out of a second-round pick for A.J. Feeley and the Redskins out of a two and a four for a possibly washed-up Donovan McNabb, buyer beware are the operative buzzwords.
3. Donovan McNabb.
Speaking of McNabb, Adam Schefter of ESPN said earlier this morning on Mike & Mike in the Morning that Redskins coach Mike Shanahan wants to get a draft pick for McNabb. Schefter, who once wrote a book with Shanahan and who thus knows a little more than the rest of us about Shanahan’s thinking, speculated that Shanahan would want something like a fifth-round selection that could increase to a fourth-rounder based on McNabb’s play in 2011.
But McNabb will want out ASAFP, and he won’t be inclined to restructure a contract that pays him $12.5 million this year.
The Redskins eventually will cut McNabb before Week One, at which time the $12.5 million will be fully owed. McNabb will want the Redskins to do it now, so that he can find a new chair before the music stops.
And so it could get ugly, quickly, in D.C., with a two-ring training camp circus featuring McNabb and Albert Haynesworth trying their best to get out of town, and Shanahan trying his best to show them who’s boss.
4. Vince Young.
The Titans have made clear their desire to trade or cut Vince Young, the third overall pick in the 2006 draft. Under the 2011 transition rules, the Titans will have to cut Young by Friday at 4:00 p.m. ET, if they can’t trade him. Otherwise, they’ll owe him a $4.25 million roster bonus.
Chances are that Young will be cut, and then the question will become whether he can get it done in a new city.
A couple of high-profile occasions on which Young couldn’t handle adversity have overcome the situations in which he has handled prosperity. At the time his 2010 season ended with an injury to his thumb and a shoe to his butt from former Titans coach Jeff Fisher, Young’s passer rating was perched at 98.6.
Can we be sure that Young’s bad reaction to periodic rough spots can be blamed only on Young? What if Young were playing for a head coach who knew how to press the right buttons, in order to get him through the inevitable challenges of playing quarterback in the NFL?
It could be that it’s all Young. But there aren’t enough good quarterbacks to go around, Young has been a good quarterback, and if there’s a head coach who can better manage Young, he could still do a lot of good things in the NFL.
5. Peyton Manning.
Colts owner Jim Irsay has declared for months that Peyton Manning’s next contract will be the biggest contract in league history. Now that Irsay is staring down the barrel of a $120 million cap limit with more than $23 million devoted to Manning, the owner is tapping the brakes.
For Manning, the question becomes whether he’ll make another money grab, or whether he’ll give the Colts enough cap space to get him the help he needs in order to build a better on-field legacy.
It’s a tricky situation for everyone, and Manning could take a big hit in the eyes of the fan base if he holds out into the preseason while he waits for a new deal.
6. Plaxico Burress.
Plaxico Burress seems to be interested in every team other than the Giants. The Giants, surprisingly, could be interested in Plaxico Burress, based on recent comments from co-owner John Mara.
In the end, the question comes down to Plaxico’s priorities. He has said he wants to play for a coach who cares, and a quarterback who can bring it. Money is surely a factor, as is Plaxico’s spot on the depth chart.
Teams will be interested. Burress must then compare the opportunities to his priorities. When he does, the decision will be easier than a decision not to take a loaded gun into a Manhattan nightclub.
OK, maybe it won’t be an easy decision.
7. Reggie Bush.
The Saints owe Bush a base salary of $11.8 million in 2011. He won’t make that much money.
The question becomes whether whatever money he makes will be made in New Orleans or elsewhere.
If he wants out, all he has to do is do nothing. The Saints surely won’t keep him past Week One, at which time that $11.8 million salary becomes guaranteed. There’s a good chance the Saints won’t even bring him into the building for training camp absent a new deal, given that a torn ACL or a busted Achilles’ would likely lead to $11.8 million making its way to Bush’s back pocket.
He’s worth more to the Saints than he is to any other team. But would he take less elsewhere for a fresh start? Lately, he has been saying all the right things. In the end, all that matters is whether he’ll say “yes” when the Saints extend their best offer for a reduced salary in 2011.
8. Ike Taylor.
Yeah, Nnamdi Asomugha has become the crown jewel of the 2011 free agency class. Sure, Antonio Cromartie gets more buzz. But Ike Taylor quietly has become one of the names to watch in free agency.
If the Steelers wanted to keep their No. 1 corner, the Steelers would have signed him before he made it to free agency.
And if Taylor wanted to stay, he wouldn’t be publicly declaring his intention to go to the highest bidder.
Making the situation even more intriguing is the fact that Taylor quietly is held in high regard by some of the coaches who are familiar with his style of play over the last eight seasons. He consistently faces the top receiver on the opposing team, and he can handle press coverage effectively, allowing the Steelers to keep offenses guessing as to whether Taylor will run with the receiver, or whether he’ll release his man after applying a jam and occupy a short zone.
With the Ravens dumping salaries, some fans think they’re making room for Asomugha. Given that the Ravens have seen twice (and sometimes thrice) per year what Ike can do, maybe he’s the guy they’re truly after.
9. Matthew Hasselbeck.
Despite the belief that the long-time Seahawks starter will jump to the Titans and that the 49ers will keep Alex Smith, there’s an emerging belief that Hasselbeck will slide down the coast, joining forces with Jim Harbaugh.
Whether Hasselbeck goes to San Fran or to Arizona, staying in the NFC West could be his best move. The team with the best quarterback play will likely win James Carville’s favorite division, and Hasselbeck could relish the Favre-style opportunity to stick it to a team that no longer wanted him.
Either way, it’s rare that a quarterback who has started a Super Bowl is available in free agency. Surely, there will be a market for his services.
10. Chris Johnson.
The Titans’ key player won’t be a free agent for two more seasons, and therein lies the problem.
Johnson wants much more than the last two seasons of his rookie deal will pay him, and for good reason. He has become one of the best players in the league. After two more years, Johnson will have less tread on the tires — and thus less reason to justify big money.
So now is the time to get paid. A holdout is virtually guaranteed, and it could get as ugly as last year’s Darrelle Revis debacle.